Seeking My Place in the Conversation
Not too long ago I was in leadership of a major Christian theatre company in Des Moines, out near Normandy Park and SeaTac. At the time that group and the creative work we were accomplishing for Christ was central to my faith & art walk. In fact, that experience clarified and galvanized my rudimentary understanding of the need for God’s artists to be witnesses to the world, and ministers to our fellow artists.
The Company closed, and I found myself asking if I really heard God’s direction to take up this leadership. In the interim months our family’s life priorities changed dramatically and we moved back to West Seattle to look after my father-in-law. Sadly, he passed away within mere weeks of our arrival and suddenly, life seemed to get stuck.
I found myself out of work for God. I mean, when you’ve got a life-mission given to you by the Lord, and you’re not being allowed to fulfill it, again, I wondered if I had been listening.
In the soul-searching work that followed, I heard God’s Spirit urging me toward a re-grounding of my faith; an invitation to revisit the basics. I promptly audited the Inquirer’s Class at our church, and went through The Alpha Course. As it is a form of prayer for me, and a lifeline, I kept journaling – not much blogging. Through this process my faith reemerged deeper, richer, and stronger than I’ve ever known it. I’d tell the course leaders that God was making landslides of growth in my life.
Wonderful; but now I’m out of work for God and asking Him why He has me here in Midian tending sheep? What’s out here in this wilderness of waiting that’s of such great worth that I’ve been “sidelined”? My prayer time and journaling brought the answer; Prayer / Study / Worship / Fellowship. I may have felt better, but I was still far from full wellness, and these four pillars of strength also needed to become full-time life-habits of central importance. That’s all in progress.
I pray. I journal. I worship. I study. In my self-directed, Open CourseWare (OCW) studies I’ve discovered many people who’ve been at this quest of unity in faith & art for decades. I was reminded of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer; introduced to the late Madeleine L’Engle; read articles written by Hans Rookmaaker and Calvin Seerveld, and many others. I found myself surrounded by an entire forest of well seasoned men and women of God who themselves have been teaching, writing, speaking, and sharing the enormity of the power of faith-driven art.
I am elated because when I began this journey I didn’t study, and as a result I felt very alone. I didn’t look beyond the pages of L’Engle’s masterwork, Walking on Water. I should have, but at the time I was very busy running a full-season semi-professional theatre company. Stopping for anything, least of all the study of faith & art, was out of the question. I had scripts to read, sets & lighting to design, and productions to direct. The Production Team and I were up to our happy little elbows in Christian theatre.
Having been stopped here in my own little Midian, with a few books of my own and two libraries within reach, I’ve done little else but study; and the things I’ve discovered, oh my. I find I’m going to be happily working, writing, teaching, and speaking about these gems for the rest of my many days. I find that my artistic voice – currently visual arts – will join those of hundreds of artists of faith.
In the midst of this work my soul asks what so many have before me: How much longer, oh Lord, will we wait and work until the church universal embraces this treasure called art? In a recent blog post, I’ve been reminded that’s how the world changes; why it requires so many voices and takes so long. Pastor Bryon Burton quotes Calvin Seerveld from For The Beauty of the Church, pg 187;
“For the evangelical Christian community to develop a living artistic tradition, a mulching ground that generates deeper going artistry which in turn will not be defensive but have staying power, will take a long time. It will probably take more than one generation of artists, art critics, art public, art patrons, art theorists, art publicists, working together in a communal perspective…”
I’ve been aware of the need for the church to re-embrace art since the seventies. Many people, like Rookmaaker, Schaeffer, and Seerveld have committed their life’s work to resolving this need. I’m but one voice in the global-choir, and like so many faith-driven creatives, I’m looking for my place in this world-changing conversation.